Couchsurfing

Off to Granada

Thursday, 1st of November, 2012

I woke at 8:30. I went online to search for hostels or a couch to surf on in Granada. At 9:00am, I woke Alex and rushed to the bus station to exchange our 10:00 am tickets for a later time.  We got to the bus station and were informed that there was no one to help us.  We would have to exchange tickets with the bus driver.  This seemed to complicated so we ran back to the house to pack.

Twenty minutes of stressful-rushed packing.  We left the apartment running at 9:50am.  Some bus drivers like to leave ten minutes early – some don’t arrive until the time of departure.  Fortunately, we arrived before the bus did.  We hopped on and arrived in Murcia an hour after.

Our bus to Granada would depart at 4:30pm giving us about 5 hours in Murcia.  We walked around making stops at chino stores, and other random shops.  We walked through and alley and stopped at a church with modern doors.   Inside was a volleyball net, moon bouncer, sand, and other beach accessories. We were shocked. The church was actually a convent turnd art space.  The artist turned the space into a beach so people can relax.  We were allowed to jump in the bouncer, play volleyball, and take some free pins. We exited exhausted from the jumping.

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We walked around in Murcia, rested at parks, and returned to the bus station. We got into our bus and headed towards Granada. It was a 4 hour bus ride. We stopped once in Velez Blanco, a small Andalusian town, just to drop people off.  An hour before arriving, I got on my phone and started looking for couches or hostels.  We were not prepared and soon arrived with no place to go. It was 8:30

At Granada’s bus station, we waited around to get picked up by Kat’s friend, Alberto.  He was kind enough to drop us off near the city center so we could look at hostels.  We exited the car in the middle of traffic and agreed to meet in a few hours to explore the town.  We checked out a few hostels. Hostel meridian was nice enough to let us use their computers to look on the web for nearby hostels.  Fortunately, someone replied on the Granada Auxiliares Facebook page.  Zebbie, an auxiliar from Pennsylvania, offered us her couch for the weekend. We were relieved but still had to meet her at the Puerta Real.  This was probably the first spot in Granada where we felt we were somewhere special.  Zebbie showed up and took us to her flat less than 10 minutes away on foot.  I payed close attention to the surroundings making sure this wasn’t an ambush.  It wasn’t.  Zebbie was a really nice girl. By the time we settled down, we were alrady supposed to meet Alberto an our roommates, Kat and Alex, by the town hall.

Puerta Real

We met up, walked about 45 minutes to the southeast part of town. We ate at Garden, a tapas bar with vegetarian options.  The food was great and cheap.  We got to know Alberto a little better and met two peolple from the states. One of them was a guy from Whittier, California who was studying in Granada. The city’s university is apparently a hotspot for studying abroad and erasmus students. The nightlife was lively– young people, open, bars, and all walking distance.  Often, strangers pestered you with bar flyers. We stopped at a chupeteria where we realized it was getting late.  We told Zebbie we wouldn’t stay out past 1am so we headed back at about 12:40pm.  Amissa and I takled to her for a bit and then cuddled onto the couch shaping our bodies in a form resembling a yin-yang.

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Categories: Couchsurfing, Europe Travel, Spain | Leave a comment

Gazpachos

Sunday September 23rd

I woke up around 9 am.  I didn’t want to get out of bed because I knew I had only slept 5 hours.  I played Angry Birds on my cell phone hoping to fall back asleep.  The house was peaceful. I pulled out my tripod and started to take some full depth of field pictures of the rooms.

I began to write in my journal until Amissa woke up.  We had breakfast together –bread, jamon serrano, and gouda cheese.  During our breakfast, Juan, Ines’s brother, came in and began to prepare for his birthday lunch.  I asked him what time they expected guests.  He answered, ”a las doce.” That was forty minutes away.  I took a shower and then returned to our room to make the bed and tidy up.

Amissa and I sat in the living room. I wrote in my journal. She attempted to read her Chicano studies book.  People began to arrive.  They greeted us not knowing we were foreigners.  After an hour or two, all the guests had arrived.  We went back and forth from the living room to the outside patio.  Eventually, we were sitting with the group, eating gambas (like quisquillas but grilled, salted, and served hot), talking about my position in the school, and Cataluña’s drive to be independent.

Ines slept in til 2. When she woke up, she showed us where they were making the Gazpachos Jumillano.  There was a stone bbq behind the house. On it was a giant pan filled with brown guck.  This was to be our lunch.  Two of Juan’s friends carried the giant brown guck filled pan through the patio where the guests and we were sitting.  Everyone gazed at the gazpachos.  Some lady finally told me to not judge the dish by its looks because it’s extremely tasty.  As the food entered the home, so did the guests.  We sat around the table for fifteen and waited to be served.

We were each served a bowl of this traditional Jumillan dish that contains shredded tortas, chicken, rabbit, and snails.  It was delicious.  The snails tasted similar to octopus.  The rabbit was like eating chicken.  After the main course, we received some giant melon slices. I was incredibly full after.

Ines took us to the city.  We went to her flat for the first time. Amissa worked on her homework.  After Ines’ flat, I think we returned to the campo, packed our bags, and moved to the Ines’ apartment in the city. Nothing else happened.

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The Palmdale of Spain

September 20, 2012

I woke up every twenty minutes to make sure all our bags were still with us.  At around 1 am, I gave up trying to sleep. I paced around the airport waiting for either Amissa to wake up or 5am, the time we’d have to move to our gate.  I tried to use the next four hors productively by writing in my journal and organizing our backpacks.  I ate half my bag of pretzels.

Amissa woke up.  She went to the bathroom.  When she came back, we cuddled on a comfort chair and fell asleep.  We woke up around 5 am and made our way to Gate 86 for our flight to Alicante, Spain.  It took us about twenty minutes of walking to get to our destination.  We were the third couple to find Gate 86.  As time went by, more and more people showed up — mainly, elderly Dutch people.

We boarded the plane around 6:55 am.  Transavia.  It was a two hour flight. No free food. No entertainment. Laughing Dutch people. I fell asleep most of the way.  When I woke up, Amissa pointed out the window.  The mountainous terrain was dominant and we wondered if we were over Spain or France.  Soon after, we landed in Spain, our new home.

We grabbed a bite to eat at the airport before getting on the bus to Murcia city.  The bus fare was €4,88 each and the ride was about an hour.  Immediately after arriving at the Murcia bus station, we boarded the bus to Jumilla. Fare – €5,75/each. Duration – 1 hr.  The landscapes were deserts, graffiti, abandoned country houses — reminiscent to a drive to Palmdale, California.

Jumillan Landscape

Mountains, yup.

We arrived in Jumilla.  We didn’t have our couchsurfing host’s, Ines, contact information.  We carried our backpacks and rolled our suitcases up and around the city looking for an internet cafe.  It was hot.  We smelled like body odor.  We finally found a “locotorio” where we had access to a computer and phone. We gave Ines a rang and we agreed to meet my the bus station.

Jumilla Bus Station

Ines picked us up as soon as we reached the station. Being our first time meeting, we introduced ourselves and entered her vehicle.  She was very nice and spoke good English. She said we would be more comfortable in her family country house.  She had family over her apartment and it would be crowded with us there too. The country house was about a mile outside the city.  We made our way in through a wooden gate and to one of the house doors.  Ines felt it was appropriate to tell us that the day before she discovered that there was a break in.  The door was busted open and nothing of value was stolen. I’ll be honest, I had second thoughts about Ines for that split second. I put it all together in my head. First, she takes us to the country house. Then, she tells us about a break in to seem like a victim. Finally, her and some strange men sacrifice our flesh to some pagan god.

The gate to the country house

What waits inside?!

We stepped into the dark country house, tense and nervous…  AND everything was fine. We got a quick tour, placed the bags in our room, and then sat with Ines at the dinner table.  She gave us some empanadas de tomate and de patata.  Patata is how the Spaniards saw potato. It’s still very funny to hear. She told us she would be staying with us in the country house.  She then invited us to go watch her balonmano (handball) training at 930 pm.  It was Ines’ friends birthday and they choreographed a “flashmob.” We went back to the city to buy some groceries for the next day.

 

Nice country house, Ines!

Nice pool, Ines!

Oruga (caterpillar) city

 

Mercadona was our first Spanish market experience. Overall similar to American markets with differences in size, products, and they charge for plastic bags. We bought some bread, Jamon Serrano de Hembra, gouda cheese, mango-apple juice, eggs, tomatoes, and onions. We left the groceries in Ines’ coche and then walke to her friend Anna’s house.  Ines had to drop some part of the gift they were preparing for her handball teammate.

We entered the flat and were greeted by a roomful of girls — Anna, Elena, Teresa, and Anna’s mother and younger sister. Anna’s dog Adiana didn’t like strangers too much but wasn’t violent. On Anna’s couch was a little furball kitten.  Its cuteness cannot be described. Amissa was completely engaged with this kitten. As me and Amissa sat on the couch, Ines and her friends put together an album of photos for her friend.  Their accent was wild with so much speed and slang. I grew tired and nauseous, partly from the lack of sleep and deep-fried empanadas. I fell asleep on the couch for about an hour.  No one said anything.

We returned to Ines’ “campo” and put away the groceries. Ines went to go renew her license. Amissa and I got ready for a shower. I went to the room to get some clothes. Amissa screams.  A giant centipede crawls out of the drain.  We captured him and now have him as a pet.

Afte the shower we took a nap.  Ines came home. We were too tired to go to her handball training and just went back to sleep.  That was our first day in Spain.

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Couchsurfing Experience #1 – Helge

My first couchsurfing experience was as a host. The couchsurfer was Helge Ebinger, a 22-year old music student from Stuttgart, Germany.  He arrived at my place Sunday, August 19th at 11:00 pm.

We hung out with a few of my friends and got to know each other.  He said he was from “The Black Forest” and we can call him “HEL” (short for Helge).  We all got a good laugh out of that because he didn’t realize how dark that sounded.  Helge stayed four nights until he eventually found a temporary room to rent.

He will be studying music at CSUN until July 2013.

Categories: Couchsurfing, Pre-Spain | Leave a comment

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